Eagles miss opportunity in São Paulo Sevens Cup Quartefinal loss to New Zealand

SÃO PAULO – The Women’s Eagles Sevens were one try away from upsetting the 2014-15 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series leader in the São Paulo Sevens Cup Quarterfinal Sunday, but New Zealand held on for the 28-17 victory.

The Eagles drop to the Plate competition, where they will play tournament and Rio 2016 host Brazil in the Semifinal at 11:06 a.m. ET.

New Zealand kicked to the U.S. to start the match but quickly regained possession through early penalty trouble to Ric Suggitt’s team. The penalties ended up hurting the Eagles on the scoreboard in the third minute when Sarah Goss received the ball five meters from the try line and ran out of the reach of Lauren Doyle for the opening score.

New Zealand took the first lead in Saturday’s match against the Eagles, as well, but the game was by no means a carbon copy of the Pool A match. The Eagles won the restart and made their way into New Zealand’s half before a pass from Kathryn Johnson to Victoria Folayan missed hands. Johnson followed the ball and gained some extra meters before the Eagles swung the ball to the opposite side of the pitch for Lauren Doyle and the team’s first try. Johnson’s angled conversion missed wide, but the Eagles were able to cut into New Zealand’s lead at 7-5.

The tournament’s leading try scorer, Portia Woodman, was held scoreless in the first seven minutes of the match, but Charlotte Arnopp-Scanlan and Kayla McAlister made up for it with a try apiece to end the half. Jessica Javelet chased Arnopp-Scanlan to the corner of the try zone, but the Kiwi was able to stay in play and dot down, while New Zealand pounced on a turnover following the restart for McAlister to extend the halftime lead to 21-5.

Javelet got one back for the Eagles in the ninth minute with a darting run to the corner herself. McAlister made the tackle just outside the try line but Javelet was able to roll once to dot down in-goal. Johnson’s conversion did not have the legs to get over the crossbar to keep New Zealand’s two-score lead at 21-10.

Day one sensation Kristen Thomas added her fourth try in as many matches on the other side of the restart with a big fend in the middle of the pitch on Goss. Thomas’ try beneath the uprights gave Johnson an easy conversion to draw the Eagles closer at 21-17.

The Eagles were fortunate on the kickoff as New Zealand lost the ball forward, setting up a scrum around the Kiwis’ 22. Thomas passed to Javelet headed in the opposite direction, though the former field hockey player could not stay out of reach of the defenders. The ball came back to Thomas with pace up the middle, but the AIG Collegiate All-American dropped the ball in-goal between the posts.

The non-try signaled the end of the match for the Eagles, who gave up one more try to Woodman to set the final score at 28-17.

The improved performance by the Eagles compared to day one’s 35-12 loss to New Zealand could give them the impetus needed to win the Plate at Arena Barueri. Watch the Plate Semifinal between the Eagles and Brazil live on World Rugby’s website and follow match play-by-play on Twitter with @USARugby.

Women’s Eagles Sevens | v New Zealand
1. Kathryn Johnson
2. Kelly Griffin (C)
3. Megan Bonny
4. Hannah Lopez
5. Jessica Javelet
6. Lauren Doyle
7. Victoria Folayan
8. Alev Kelter
9. Joanne Fa’avesi
10. Dana Meschisi
11. Melissa Fowler
12. Kristen Thomas

Women’s Eagles Sevens | 17
Tries: Doyle, Javelet, Thomas
Conversions: Johnson

New Zealand | 28
Tries: Goss, Arnopp-Scanlan, McAlister, Woodman
Conversions: Nathan-Goss

Women’s Eagles Sevens | São Paulo Sevens
v. New Zealand – L 35-12
v. France – L 14-12
v. Spain – W 26-7
Cup QF v New Zealand – L 28-17
Plate SF v Brazil – Sunday, Feb. 8 – 11:06 a.m. ET